Message of Student Elections in Delhi Campuses: Rebuff for Myths of ‘Modi Magic’ and ‘Rahul Role-Model’

On September 13, student elections were held simultaneously in JNU and DU – two premier centres of higher education in the national capital. JNU has once again voted in a big way for AISA, and equally significantly, students of Delhi University also extended huge support to the AISA panel, enabling it to emerge as a powerful contender against the ABVP and NSUI in the traditionally bipolar DU campus. This is the best ever showing for AISA in both the campuses and it clearly shows a growing aspiration among students for a powerful and progressive student movement. Refuting the media hype surrounding the so-called ‘role models’ and ‘youth icons’ of the Indian ruling elite, Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi, thousands of students have reposed their faith in AISA, the student platform of the revolutionary Left movement.

Two decades ago AISA had announced its arrival in campuses across the Hindi belt as a new beacon of hope for progressive students when the BJP was trying to drown the country in a communal bloodbath and bourgeois ideologues the world over were gloating over the collapse of the Soviet Union. Generations of AISA activists braved administrative hostility and even mafia violence to keep the flag high and fight for the unfulfilled dreams of their beloved martyr Comrade Chandrashekhar. Today when the country is reeling under a deep economic crisis, the legitimacy of the present government has been seriously dented by corruption and all-round non-performance, and the Sangh brigade is desperately trying to exploit this juncture to advance its communal- and corporate-fascist agenda, the advance made by AISA has come as a shot in the arm not only for the radical student movement but for all who care for democracy, secularism and social transformation.

Like agricultural land and mineral resources and rivers and forests, the sphere of higher education too is today facing a massive corporate-imperialist onslaught. From rampant commercialisation and fee hike to the FYUP (Four Year Undergraduate Programme) imposed on Delhi University students and teachers, there is a systematic attempt to subvert the process and content of higher education to suit corporate-imperialist interests. Simultaneously attempts are on to regiment the syllabus and curtail campus democracy. AISA has been in the forefront of the battle for democratisation of education and for academic freedom and excellence against the designs of corporate restructuring and saffronised subversion and regimentation. Its consistent struggle has been vindicated by the results.

The sphere of higher education is of course no isolated island, and the battle for campus democracy and academic freedom must therefore go hand in hand with the larger battle for people’s rights and social transformation. AISA has firmly upheld this principle, a principle rooted in the finest traditions of student activism whether in India or anywhere else in the world, and its agenda has always been informed by broader social concerns. In recent times, Delhi has emerged as a powerful bastion of people’s protests and AISA has been one of the most energetic, courageous and consistent platforms of popular activism. Whether against corporate plunder or assaults on women, AISA has been in the forefront of the battle for freedom, democracy and justice on every major issue. The vote for AISA has been a vote for this fusion of student movement with the larger people’s movement.

The performance of AISA in the September 13 elections promises a vibrant future for the progressive student movement. If AISA can sustain this momentum, it can well end the ABVP-NSUI monopoly in DU and free the aspiration and activism of students in the DU campus from the existing bourgeois political stranglehold. JNU is traditionally regarded as a bastion of Leftwing student politics, but it is AISA which has successfully stopped the right from making any major inroads in the campus in the era of pro-corporate economic reforms, communal and anti-Mandal frenzy, and post-Soviet bourgeois triumphalism. It was AISA’s powerful presence and the growing radical democratic mood of the campus that forced a revolt and split in SFI, the CPI(M) student wing. In the 2012 elections, JNU gave an opportunity to the SFI rebels, but the new organisation failed to champion the radical agenda of student movement. AISA has now emerged undisputedly as the leading banner of Left student movement in the national capital and it has to live up to this role.

The strengthening of AISA in Delhi raises hopes of exciting possibilities beyond the campuses. The anti-corruption movement and the youth upsurge in the wake of the brutal rape and murder of Nirbhaya have already revealed glimpses of these possibilities. The expansion of Delhi into the glittering National Capital Region of India is a story replete with retrograde and repressive features. It is a region marked by indiscriminate land acquisition and eviction, privatisation and denial of industrial democracy, khap panchayats and honour killings, communal violence and social oppression, and fake encounters, witch-hunt and suppression of dissent. To be sure, these instances of injustice and oppression are no longer going unchallenged. India looks forward to a bold assertion of student power in this broader arena of struggle which alone can be a true tribute to the legacy of India’s ultimate youth icon Bhagat Singh and his dream of ‘inquilab’.

Liberation Archive